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Sonsonet: A Dance for Female Circumcision

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Female Circumcision

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A contemporary choreography  of Sonsornet presented for the song.  More traditional arrangement below.

Sorsonet Mask Dance

Sorsonet Mask Dance

Sonsonet, also Sorsonet , is my favorite djembe rhythm.  It is a  mask dance of the Baga People of Guinea . One aspect  of the Spirit of Sonrsonet is a lover and protector of children.  He comes to the village maybe 2-3 times per year then returns to the bush.  The chants  which speak of  honoring the mother  and the releasing of the female child from the domain of her parents are haunting; piercing the soul.  The rhythm is a driven 3/4 cadence  and becomes ecstatic at faster tempos.  When I learned that the dance was used as  part of the circumcision ritual for young girls I was horrified and  went through an intense moral crisis.  I refused to play the rhythm for a couple of years.  This incident  did teach me a lesson about  knowing the meaning and purpose of music from another culture.

In the meantime, I began to learn as much as I could about female circumcision. This proved to be a challenge as many of the African women who were teaching dance classes were unwilling to discuss the topic.  Female circumcision became a heated topic  among the African American women at one of the dance camps I attended. The dance teacher soundly told us to not judge and make assessments on their culture or things we did not understand. She told us she had the hood of the clitoris removed and she found that she had heightened sensitivity to sexual activity.  She would not comment on infibulation other than to state that it was not us, American women, that would decide the fate of women in Africa.  Not one of us could provide food, clothing, or sanctuary to these women. Women’s lives were on the line in Africa and our opinions counted as nothing

Over the years, I have  had the blessing of meeting and talking to various women who had undergone the procedure. This included  ones who were pierced or had the clitoris exposed to ones who had experienced full infibulation.  In the case of infibulation one woman, well in her thirty’s, looked all of 15 years old.  She had been granted asylum in America and a surgeon had taken on her case to provide the reconstructive surgery and hormonal therapy she required to save her life. My feeling sorry for her was not acceptable.  Blessing her journey to create awareness and change was everything.

The National Ballet of Guinea made a surprise stop in Denver in 2000-2001.  Their final piece was Sorsonet.  The magnificence of the performance was stunning and I was again thrown into moral turmoil. How could something so beautiful and powerful have such a darker meaning?  Then, at the end of the performance ,where it was being depicted that the girls were being taken into  “The Bush”, women came out in white gowns with  a large red cross on the front depicting the International Red Cross Society.  These women danced their hearts out, then took then women away from the trail heading to “ The Bush” and out another exit.  I cried like a baby for days.   

  The piece brought me a deep spiritual healing although I did not fully understand  until the last few years why I cried so.  It was the ballet’s way of letting the world know that, at least for this group of performers, other options than female circumcision were being explored and implemented.  Blessings to these brave men and women.

Sorsonet with traditional choreography
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Series Navigation«Adopt a Clitoris: Medical Care for Circumcised Women

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